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beware of the Scribes and Pharisees; insinuating thereby who the enemies were whose destruction he had mentioned. "The Scribes and the Pharisees, (said he) sit in Moses' seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not." Matt, xxiii. 2, 3.
While they teach the doctrines before delivered by Moses, observe all they say; but by no means imitate their practices: for they impose many precepts on their disciples, which they never performed themselves. "For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men." Matt, xxiii. 4,5.
The difficult precepts they impose on others are never regarded by these hypocrites, and any good action they may happen to perform is vitiated by the principle from whence it proceeds. They do it only with a view to gain popular applause, and not from a regard to God, far less from a love of goodness. They are proud and arrogant to excess, as is plain from their affected gravity in their clothes; from the anxiety they discover lest they should not obtain the principal seats in the public assemblies, and from their affecting to be saluted in the street with the sounding titles of Rabbi, and father. "They make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments. And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi." Matt, xxiii. 5, 6, 7.
The word Rabbi signifies, properly, great, and was given to those men who had rendered themselves remarkable for the extent of their learning; it is therefore no wonder that the proud and supercilious Pharisees were so fond of a title, which so
highly complimented their understanding's, and gave them great authority with their disciples.
But the followers of the blessed Jesus were to decline this title; because the thing signified by it belonged solely to their Master, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and because they owed no part of their knowledge to themselves, but derived it entirely from him who came down from heaven. But be not ye called Rabbi ; for one is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your father which is in heaven." Matt, xxiii. 8, 9. Life, with all its blessings, comes from God, and men wholly depend upon him; all praise and thankfulness, therefore, should ultimately be referred to him; so that if any one teacheth rightly, not the teacher, but the wisdom of the Almighty, is to be praised, which exerts and communicates itself by him.
Nor were the disciples of our blessed Saviour to accept of the title of master or leader, which the Jewish doctors also courted, because in point of commission and inspiration, they were all equal, neither had they any title to rule the consciences of men, except by virtue of the inspiration, which tbey had received from the Master, to whom alone the prerogative of infallibility belonged. "Neither be ye called masters;' for one is your Master, even Christ." Matt, xxiii. 10.
The divine Teacher, however, did not intend by this to intimate, that it was sinful to call men by the stations that they held in the world: he only intended to reprove the simplicity of the common people, who loaded their teachers with praises, and forgot to ascribe any thing to God ; and to root out of the minds of his apostles the Pharasaical vanity, which decked itself with honour, belonging solely to the Creator of the Universe. Accordingly, that he might instiinto their hearts humility to dispose them to do good offices to one another, as occasion offered, he assured them it was the only road to true greatness; for by assuming what did not properly belong to them, they should be despised both by God and men. Whereas those who did not disdain to perform the meanest offices of love to their brethren, should enjoy a high degree of the divine favour.
The above discourses greatly incensed the Scribes and Pharisees, as they were pronounced in the hearing of many of that order; it is therefore no wonder that they .watched every opportunity to destroy him, but this was not a time to put their bloody designs in execution; the people set too high a value on his doctrine, to suffer any violence to be offered to his person; and as this was the last sermon he was ever to preach in public, it was necessary, that he should use some severity, as all his mild persuasions proved ineffectual.
He therefore denounced, in the most solemn manner, dreadful woes against them, not on account of the personal injuries he had received from them, but on account of their excessive wickedness.
They were public teachers of religion': and therefore should have used every method in their power to recommend its precepts to the people, and to have been themselves shining examples of every duty it enjoined; but, on the contrary, they abused every mark and character of goodness for all the purposes of villainy, and, under the cloak of a severe and sanctified aspect, they were malicious, implacable, lewd, covetous, and rapacious. In a word, instead of being reformers, they were the corrupters of mankind, and consequently their wickedness deserved the greatest reproof that could be given by the great Redeemer of mankind. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for ye neither go in
yourselves, neither suffer ye them that were entering to go in. Woe unto you, Scribe* and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye devour widows' houses, and for a pretence make long prayer; therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and, when he is made, ye make him two-fold more the child of hell than yourselves.'' Matt, xviii. 13, &c.
The punishment you shall suffer will be terribly severe, because you have given a wrong interpretation of the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah, and done all that is in your power to hinder the people from repenting of their sins, and believing the gospel: because you have committed the grossest iniquities, an J under the cloak of religion have devoured the substance of widows and- orphans, hoping to hide your villainies by.long prayers; because ye have expressed the greatest zeal imaginable in making proselytes, not with a view to render the Gentilesmore wise and virtuous, but toacquire their riches, and a command over their consciences; and instead of teaching them the precepts of virtue and the moral duties of religion, you confine their duties to- superstitious and ceremonial institutions: and hence they often relapse into their old state of Heathenism, and become more wicked than before their conversion, . and consequently liable to a more severe . sentence.
He also exposed their doctrineconcerning . oaths: and declared in opposition to their abominable tenets, that every oath, if the matter of it be lawful, is obligatory: because when men swear by any part of the creation, it is an appeal to the Creator himself; for in any other light an oath of this kind is absolutely ridiculous, the object having neither know Tedge of the fact, nor power to punish the perjury. "Woe unto you, ye blind guides, which say, Whosoever shall swear by the temple it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple; he is
a delrtor. Ye fools, and blind: for whether is greater, thegold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold? and whosoever shall swear by the altar it is nothing, but whosoever sweareth by the gift that is upon it, he is guilty. Ye fouls, and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift? Whoso, therefore, shall swear by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon. And whoso shall swear by the temple sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein. And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon." Matt, xxiii. 16, &c.
He likewise reprehended their superstitious practices, in observing the minutest parts of the ceremonial precepts of the law, and at the same time utterly neglecting the eternal and indispensible rules of righteousness. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye pay tythe> of mint, and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other under." Matt, xxiii. 23, Sec.
Their hypocrisy did not escape the censure of the Son of God; they spared no pains to appear virtuous in the eyes of the world, and maintain an external conduct that should acquire the praises of men, but at the same time neglected to adorn their souls with the robe of righteousness, which is the only ornament that can render them dear in the sight of their Maker. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; tor ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also." Matt, xxiii. 25, 26. Cleanse first the mind, thy inward man, from evil dispositions and affections, and the outward behaviour will of course be virtuous and praise-worthy.
Moreover he animadverted upon the success of their hypocrisy. They deceived the simple and unthinking part of mankind with their pretended sanctity, appearing like whited sepulchres, beautiful on the outside, while their internal parts were full of uncleanness. Woe unto you, Scrihes and Pharisees, hypocrites; for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Matt, xxiii. 27, 28.
He also reproved the pains they bad taken in adorning the sepulchres of ihe prophets; because they pretended a great veneration for their memories, and even condemned their fathers, who killed them, saying, that if they had lived in the days of their fathers, they would have opposed such monstrous wickedness, while, at the same time, all their actions abundantly proved that they still cherished the same spirit they condemned in their fathers, persecuting the messengers of the Most High, particularly his only-begotten Son, whom they were determined to destroy. "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets." Matt, xxiii. 29, &c.
He added, that the divine Being was desirous of trying every method for their conversion, though all these instances of mercy were slighted, and that they must expect such terrible vengeance, as should be a standing monument of the divine displeasure against all the murders committed by the sons of men, from the foundation of the world.
Having thus laid before them their heinous guilt and dreadful punishment, he was, at the thought of the calamities which were soon to fall upon them, exceedingly moved, and his breast filled with sensations of pity, to such a degree, that, unable to contain himself, he brake forth into tears, bewailing the hard lot of the city of Jerusalem; for as its inhabitants had more deeply imbrued their hands in the blood of the prophets, they were to drink more deeply of the punishment due to such crimes. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." Matt, xxiii. 37, &c.
This benevolent, as well as pathetic exclamation of our blessed Lord, cannot fail to excite in the pious mind the warmest emotions of love, to the gracious Saviour of mankind, as well as pity for that once chosen but since degenerate race. How often had the Almighty called upou them to return from their evil way, before he sent his onlybegotten Son into the world? How often, how emphatically did the compassionate Jesus intreat them to embrace the merciful terms now offered them by the Almighty; and with what unconquerable obstinacy did they refuse the benevolent offers, and resist the most winning expressions of the divine love! By the word house, our blessed Saviour meant the temple, which was from that time to be left unto them desolate; the glory of the Lord, which Haggai had prophesied should fill the second house, was now departing from it. Adding, " I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'* Matt, xxiii. 39. As if he had said, as ye have killed the prophets, and persecuted me, whom the Father hath sent from the courts of heaven, and will shortly put me who am the Lord of the temple, to death, your holy house shall be left desolate, and your nation
totally deserted by me; nor shall you see me any more till ye shall acknowledge the dignity of my charaoter, and the importance of my mission, and say with the whole earth, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
Thus did the blessed Jesus strip the Scribes and Pharisees of their hypocritical mask. He treated them with severity because their crimes were of the blackest dye: and hence we should learn to be really good, and not natter ourselves that we can cover our crimes with the cloak of hypocrisy, from that piercing eye, from which nothing is concealed.
The people could not fail of being astonished at these discourses, as they had always considered their teachers as the most righteous amongst the sous of men. Nay, the persons themselves against whom they were levelled, were confounded, because their own consciences convicted them of the truth of every particular laid to their charge. They, therefore, knew not what course to pursue; and in the midst of their hesitation, they let Jesus depart without making any attempt to seize him, or inflict on him any kind of punishment.
in the temple. While he continued in this court, "he beheld how the j>coj)le oast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance, but she of her want did cast in all she hod, even all her living." Mark xir. 41, &c.
Though the offering given by this poor widow was in itself very small, yet in proportion to the goods of life she enjoyed, it was remarkably large; for it was all she had, even all her living. In order, therefore, to encourage charity, and to shew them that it is the disposition of the mind, not the magnificence of the offering, that attached the regard of the Almighty, the Son of God applauded this poor widow, as having given more in proportion, than any of the rich. Their offerings, though great in respect of her's, were but a small part of their estates, whereas her offering was her whole stock. And from this passage of the gospel we should learn, that the poor, who in appearance are denied the means of doing charitable offices, are encouraged to do all they can. For how small soever the gift may be, the Almighty, who beholds the heart, values it, not according to what it is in itself, but according to the disposition with which it is given.
On the other hand, we should learn from hence, that it is not enough for the rich, that they exceed the poor in the gifts of charity; they should bestow in proportion to their fortune; and they would do well to remember, that a little given, where a little only is left, appearsa much nobler offering, in the sight of the Almighty, and discovers a more benevolent and humane temper of mind, than sums much larger bestowed out of a plentiful abundance.
The disciples now remembered that their Master, at the conclusion of his pathetic lamentation over Jerusalem, had declared that the temple should not any more be favoured with his presence, till they should say, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord."
A resolution of this kind could not fail of greatly surprising his disciples; and, therefore, as he was departing from that sacred structure, they desired him to observe the beautyofthebuilding; insinuating, that they thought it strange he should intimate an intention of leaving it desolate; that so glorious a fabric, celebrated in every corner of the earth, was not to be deserted rashly: and that they should think themselves supremely happy, when he, as the Messiah and descendant of David, should take possession of it, and erect his throne in the midst of Jerusalem. And as they went out ofthe temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, " Master, see what manner of stones, and what buildings are here."
The eastern wall of the temple, which fronted the mount of Olives, whither the disciples, with their Master were then retiring, was built from the bottom of the valley to a prodigious height, with stones of an incredible bulk, firmly compacted together, and therefore made a very grand appearance, at a distance. The eastern wall is supposed to have been the only remains of Solomon's temple, and had escaped when the Chaldeans burnt it. But this building, however costly or strong it appeared, our Saviour told them, should be totally destroyed, "Seest thou (said he) these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down." Mark xiii. 2.
That noble edifice raised with much labour, and at a vastexpence, shall be razed. to the very foundation. The disciples, therefore, when they heard their Master affirm, that not so much as one of these